Sentinel Homes was no different. While our core work – building houses – can’t change much, we worked hard behind the scenes to move everything else online. Like others in business, we’ve found that the changes lockdown required us to make came with a raft of benefits – and fewer downsides than we expected. Here are the pivots and innovations we implemented to make sure we could keep serving our customers – wherever we were.
Our business is very much about relationships. To design and build a house that suits your family and lifestyle, we need to understand you – how you live your life, what you care about and your family dynamic. Meeting face to face has always been an important part of that process. In person, we can get a feel for each other through body language, which often communicates more clearly than words!
Shifting our meetings online might have meant we would lose a lot of that insight. Instead, we found that what we lost in body language, we gained by being beamed into people’s homes. Seeing inside clients’ houses and how they dress when they’re relaxing at home (PJs, in one instance!) gave us a new level of personal connection.
We could use Zoom’s functionality to replicate an in-person meeting. We shared our screen to go through designs, proposals or consenting documents and could even set the design renders of a client’s new home as our Zoom backdrop. This let them see it from all angles so we could easily talk to different features.
The process was extremely well received – simple enough for people who might otherwise struggle with technology, and so convenient without travel time or fighting traffic. While we still love catching up in person, our virtual meetings will almost certainly become a permanent option when it best suits clients.
While lockdown meant that our offices and show homes were closed, our virtual tours meant people could still ‘walk through’ them and experience the feel and layout. The tours are set up much like Google Maps, with simple navigation tools allowing users to explore the space, peer into cupboards and take a long hard look at fixtures. They also allow people who live in areas without a show home the opportunity to check out our builds, and clients from all over the country can explore more layouts – rather than just being limited to their local show home. Want to see it in action? Click here to take a tour of some of our show homes.
Like much of the country, the Sentinel Homes team had to up-sticks from our offices and find places to work in our own homes. This took innovation, flexibility and communication to get right – all things we (fortunately!) have embedded in our culture.
With a few teething problems quickly ironed out, we found that working remotely delivered unexpected benefits. With space and quiet to focus, team members motored through desk work and could avoid travel time altogether. As Zoom and other remote working tools became an everyday part of our work life, Sentinel Homes franchise owners could connect more regularly and more casually. That meant that while individual teams had to work harder to stay strong, it decreased the distance between our offices around the country. Many of our teams are back working in their offices, but we continue to use those remote working systems to maintain the flexibility and efficiency we enjoyed over lockdown.
When a business already has innovation, flexibility and communication as core parts of its culture, the pivots needed during lockdown don’t hold it back. We found that the new way of working opened virtual doors to new and better ways to do things. Zoom meetings revealed new insights about clients, virtual show home tours allowed people from around the country to explore more than one layout, staff found efficient ways of working together and offices stayed in touch without the time and costs of travel. Post-lockdown, remote working systems are now part of BAU at Sentinel Homes – we love that we can offer more options to clients, and to our team!
Thinking of building your dream home? Get in touch with Sentinel Homes today.
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